Question of the Week: Driving

by Susan Henderson on February 11, 2008

How would you characterize your driving? (Or, maybe I should ask how the person in the passenger seat would characterize your driving?)


Wednesday, Bridgett M. Davis will be here. She is the screenwriter and director of the award-winning, indie film, NAKED ACTS, and author of the novel, SHIFTING THROUGH NEUTRAL.

She also happens to be married to my friend, Rob Fields – we attended geek finishing school together – and you can check him out over at his blogs, Bold As Love and Marketing Pop Culture.

Okay, have fun with today’s question, and I hope you’ll be back Wednesday to join the conversation!

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura_Benedict February 11, 2008 at 12:15 am

Eccentric, with occasional bursts of enthusiastic aggression. But accident-free since 1996!


RAC February 11, 2008 at 1:51 am

For a short time, I was taxi driver in Santa Fe. My tips were better than okay, which I attribute to my speed, efficiency, good-natured cabbie patter, and not killing anyone. One of my regulars during holidays and weekend getaways was the very cool Philip Glass (the composer) who had been a NYC taxi driver before his music paid the bills. He understood a lot about people and treated me like a true compadre. My other regulars included hilarious but slowly dying self-described town drunks, unpredictably emotional but ultimately endearing art student/exotic dancer/former hookers, and high society but completely balls out “eccentric” philanthropists. I saw every gated mansion and every back road adobe brick home in The City Different, and I’ve learned that some people are deserving and grateful, and some are definitely not–but, then again, who am I to judge? The street maps, shortcuts, alleys, caminos, calles, and barrios are all still there, eyes open or closed, en viva colores. So, yeah, I would characterize my driving as pretty damned okay. And I didn’t kill anybody.


Nathalie February 11, 2008 at 1:53 am

Nervous. I hate to drive. In particular in places I don’t know and if the weather conditions are a little hostile. But almost four years in Rome and no accidents yet [making all sorts of rude gestures to ensure that evil eye is avoided].


robinslick February 11, 2008 at 7:39 am

I haven’t had a driver’s license for over 25 years and the State of Pennsylvania is extremely grateful for that. In fact, they insisted! But my husband, who was my last terrified passenger when we were still baby hippies in high school, will attest to the fact that as soon as I get behind the wheel, I lose what little logic and common sense I have and become this scary, disoriented person convinced that I’m either in a police chase or that everyone around me is.

So I live downtown where I am surrounded by everything I could possibly need, I walk everywhere within a ten mile radius, and the world is a safer, greener place.


Myfanwy February 11, 2008 at 8:04 am

Sorry about your headache, Susan! Hope you feel better soon.

This is a question right up my alley. I HATE DRIVING–especially on a highway and especially when I have passengers. So the person in the passenger seat would characterize my driving as that of a very old, sightless woman. My driving is both tentative and verging on hysteria.


billie February 11, 2008 at 8:47 am

Cautious, and for the most part decent, except when I have a friend along and get too caught up in the conversation! Then I find myself punctuating every few sentences with “Oh my god, I’m sorry” in response to muted gasps coming from the passenger side of the front seat.


Betsy February 11, 2008 at 9:41 am

My passenger is trying to come up with the right word for it but we’re not quite there yet. Maybe “lacks confidence?” The driver would just say “Doesn’t care for it much.”
I should write a book about my driving experiences because it’s not my favorite thing to do, and as a NYC kid I got my license at 25 and then didn’t really use it for another ten years after that.
I drove over a possum once. That was not enjoyable.


Betsy February 11, 2008 at 9:41 am

Oh, I feel so unalone! I don’t like passengers either! Or highways! So I just avoid them!


A.S. King February 11, 2008 at 9:42 am

I am a seriously defensive and safety-conscious driver. So much so that I am an awful passenger.
This comes from years of delivering pizzas and sharing the road with drunk/dangerous/hurried assholes. I reckon, if they’re not paying attention, I had better be.

Also, I have an irrational fear of death-by-accident.

Sorry to hear of your headache. I wonder if it’s sinus related like mine is? Mr. Stel has been giving me nightly face rubs and it’s much improved.



Gail Siegel February 11, 2008 at 9:44 am

Too fast, too impatient, too aggressive. Luckily for everyone else, I usually take the train.


Gail Siegel February 11, 2008 at 9:45 am

Hey Nathalie, I’m sending you an email about Rome, so don’t think it’s spam!


Kimberly February 11, 2008 at 9:56 am

I spent 10 years in the driver’s seat – quite literally – and have serious trouble sitting in the passenger seat.

I’m the daughter of a “Big-Rig” driver and I’ve inherited all of his terrible habits behind the wheel: I’m a leadfoot, easily succeptible to road rage, require control over the music, talk to other drivers (even though I know they can’t hear me) and love, love, love the thrill of being behind the wheel.

I actually wrote all about my love for driving a while back…

(Does anyone else find the amazing parallels in your driving traits to your personality traits? Oh, the hours of therapy I’ve just saved myself by analyzing how I drive…)


Kate Gray February 11, 2008 at 10:13 am

I have had only minor road incidents, thanks mostly to my father and his exacting standards of driving training. As far as my behind-the-wheel behavior goes, I really try to keep my mind on things, or I’d end up drifting all over the place. When I’m outside my home state, I get lost very easily, and it might look to other people like Ryan Reynolds’ meltdown behind the wheel in Just Friends. I used to be a speed demon, but since I’ve become a mom, I’ve become way more laid back, and find that listening to low-key music helps me keep my cool when things happen – like the time a woman cut me off and slammed on the brakes in front of me, because she felt I’d “wronged” her on the highway. My general philosophy of dealing with that kind of stress is to tell myself that I’ll never see the jackass again, and let it go.


Aurelio February 11, 2008 at 10:15 am

I have always taken driving very seriously. It probably stems from being hit by a car when I was a kid and seriously damaged. LA driving is not always easy. I stay focused and drive well. I’ve never had a ticket, and the only accident I’ve had was when some nut-job rear-ended me (I was waiting at a light in the rain, she had no sense of physics.)


tracer February 11, 2008 at 11:05 am

I learned to drive in and around the Boston area and while I never attained the kind of skilled aggression inherent in my parent’s driving, I did okay. For the last fourteen years, however, I’ve lived carless in Portland, OR. My life as a cyclist and pedestrian has made me a kinder driver, but whose to say? On the rare driving occasion, my passengers are usually disturbed by the fact that I can’t stop saying, “Ooh, look how fast we’re going!”


lance_reynald February 11, 2008 at 11:11 am

hate it.
in part because I’m a beltway brat and didn’t ever need to drive growing up. In the event a “ride” was arranged, I’m most courteous from the backseat not doing any of the thinking. Once I headed out to the west where cars are a definate part of the culture I learned to detest them even more. I swear, when I was in Colorado I would watch people drive 3 blocks to the grocery store and just shake my head. Portland is cool in the fact that I get to live the carless life once again, the public transport here is awesome. I figure Robin, Betsey and Me could be pretty resourceful avoiding cars together… and I think the rest of you should be sleeping a bit better knowing that we’re helping you along with that carbon footprint.

though if anyone wants to put me behind the wheel of a S-class… I might be willing to start liking it 🙂


SusanHenderson February 11, 2008 at 11:12 am

Wow, are these fascinating! You’re right about the correlation between driving and personality. Makes me afraid to think too hard on this.

I’ll answer individual posts this evening. Thanks for all that good pity regarding my head. I just had an hour of acupuncture and the headache is gone, and the stomach ache from all the various drugs I tried to fix the headache is gone.

I’m going unplugged for a few hours while I try to tackle a really emotional piece in my book. We’ll see if it brings the headache back. Carry on… xo


Ric February 11, 2008 at 11:16 am

I drive everywhere – to the tune of 25,000 miles a year or so. Can’t imagine not having a car, and, of course, out here in the hinterlands, where it is 3 miles to the closest store, 8 miles to the school, there is no other way to get around. Think I’m a pretty good driver – accident free since 84 – and that guy hit me. I go a little slower than most folks, but there isn’t anyplace I need to be badly enough to endanger others.


Gail Siegel February 11, 2008 at 11:23 am

I do find, more and more, that I can’t talk and drive at the same time. Walking and chewing gum, I’ve still got that mastered.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Too funny. I answered this in last week’s six-word memoir: Loves speed; drives like a demon.

I did follow up the question in my blog last week. Here’s what I posted there:

I love driving fast. In fact, I love doing most everything fast. My mind is like an indy car fueled with ideas. I type faster than I can write, so I type everything. My handwriting, once studied to cursive perfection, now scrawls across the page in my drive to get it–whatever it is–out.

Maybe it’s because I’m turning 50 this year, but I’ve noticed my foot pressing harder on the accelerator of my life. It’s not that I’m in a hurry to get there–wherever there is–but there is so much I want to see, do, hear, tell before the years of my life are over.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 11, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Oh, Kimberly. You nailed it for me. I grew up in SoCali, took to the freeways in high school Driver’s Ed. Not only do I love driving, but I love to drive FAST.


Nathalie February 11, 2008 at 12:15 pm

And I have already replied. If you can’t find the message, try and check your spam box…


Nathalie February 11, 2008 at 12:19 pm

:). It is true that the reason why I am a nervous driver is because I KNOW that I am prone to serious bouts of absent mindness, so you might be on to something. Even if I have seen perfectly civilized persons become wild beasts as soon as they were taking control of a car…


Myfanwy February 11, 2008 at 12:36 pm

I avoid them, too. I love that mapping software lets you avoid highways in some searches. Perfect!

Oddly, one of the places I don’t mind driving is within the city of Boston–which is madness.


Kimberly February 11, 2008 at 12:44 pm

My favorite car ever was my VW Jetta. I had a boyfriend who also loved to drive and taught me how to “corner”. Life has never been so thrilling…

If I ever get a car again, I will, without a doubt, get another German car that can really drive!

I have dreams that I’m Danica Patrick… VROOM! VROOM!


SusanHenderson February 11, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Still editing so pretend I’m not here, but wanted share an essay Bridgett (Wednesday’s guest) wrote. It’s about black literature and just went up today on The Root. In case you haven’t heard, it’s a new online magazine begun by Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Washington Post and Slate.

Here’s her essay called, Break the ‘Street Lit’ Habit:

And here’s the main site so you can bookmark:


cungena54 February 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Hi, I haven´t even a licence!! While growing up in Australia cars were for the priviledged, then later when I had kids and living in Germany I had no time because the public transport is so good and taking lessons cost a small fortune. so when I finally had the means and the time I didn´t have the “nerve” anymore!!,and again I can get anywhere here.
However my son says I´m a terrible back seat driver! and once said that the passenger seat in the front of our VW Golf will be turned backwards in the next new car!
In the meantime 15 years have lapsed and junior has his own car ( BMW 5!)which is huge and I must say I keep quiet as I feel quite safe with him driving these day even when he is doing 180 KM on the Freeway!He´s never had an accident and is a good driver. Nothing can disturb him while driving even a Porsche on his bumper bar!!!
Sometimes however when I see some people driving I wonder if they won their licence in a raffle!


Laura_Benedict February 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Oh, God. That *is* my personality.


DarylDarko February 11, 2008 at 4:17 pm

I am over cautious; obey all speed laws, come to a complete stop at every stop sign and use my turn indicators. But I am adventurous, use a GPS and will go places that I’ve never been before. I take alternate routes to my destinations and I always have a fresh selection of cds in the car to listen to. I always have a window open, even if it is cold or raining and I love to give rides to strangers. I will almost always argue against logic and reason when I see a hitch hiker.

I’d actually make a very good taxi driver/tour guide/airport jitney driver I think. Pity I live in a suburb where everyone already owns a car and there are no sites worthy of touring.


jessicaK February 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Type of driver: unpredictable.

I have good days and erratic days. Days when I stay within the speed limit and days when I drive 10 to 20 miles over the speed limit. Days when I don’t pump the brakes, other days when I stop too suddenly and accelerate brashly. Days when I let people enter from side roads and days when I keep driving and don’t let people through. Got my first traffic violation ever this year.

I love driving on country roads.



Sarah Bain February 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I LOVE driving. In fact, if the choice is to drive or be the passenger and hand out snacks to kids, drinks, play peek-a-boo with impatient car seat riders, my husband will tell you hands down, that I choose driving. That being said, I am impatient, foot on the gas pedal, kind of driving. Having grown in in SoCal it is inconceivable to me now that I live in a city with ONE freeway. There aren’t a lot of options here: north or south; east or west. But I do like driving and I don’t like stopping so on one trip a while back when Terry had to pee and I was trying to speed to catch a ferry, I asked him if he could wait–we only had 100 miles to go–and well, let’s just say I was not popular.

I love to get up early and drive late and I have an A to Z kind of mission. But kids have tamed that in me because if we are driving 1200 miles to see family, well then, let’s get in the car and get moving…


aimeepalooza February 11, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I hate driving. It gives me anxiety attacks. I need to know where I am going and the roads need to be clear of all rain and snow. Being in rural Michigan, we have 9 months of snow, sleet, and rain, and the rest of the time construction, farm machines, and deer. I want to live in a city where I can take public transportation.
If I didn’t have a job I’d only the leave the house if conditions were perfect. It’s probably good that I have a job because in Michigan, I’d be a hermit.
Oh, to answer the question…I am a slow, nervous driver and I often shout at SUV driving maniacs and teenagers through my closed windows.


djtuffpuppy February 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I just got a new car two weeks ago. It is my first car that I bought. My former was a hand-me-down mini van from my parents. $15,000 in debt later I now understand the importance of changing my oil and washing my car. In terms of driving I would say that the music is a little bit quieter and I drive at the speed limit. God forbid that anything should happen to my beautiful new car…. Also, one time I had to drive nearly naked after I got covered in mud and didn’t have a change of clothes. That was fun.


chuckles February 11, 2008 at 7:44 pm

I drive fast and I try to shave every possible second from the trip – so I’m infuriated by anyone inefficient or pokey who dares get in front of me. However, I try to balance that out by prohibiting myself from saying anything hurtful or demeaning about another driver or pedestrian while I’m behind the wheel. It can be exhausting – some of those suckers really are begging for a cursing-out!


Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 11, 2008 at 8:36 pm

I dream of driving a Porche or BMW on the autobahn. Someday, Kimberly, I’ll swing by and pick you up–I’ll even let you drive.


Sbain February 12, 2008 at 2:09 am

Okay, shocking, but here I am in full color. Apparently, I can drive fast, drive at night and drive while drinking a latte, talking on the cell phone and pass out snacks to the kiddos but it has taken me eons to open an account and login to disqus. Alas, who is that webmaster that made us all sign up and post pictures of ourselves????


maria February 12, 2008 at 8:24 am

There are few things better than driving on a stretch of empty country road in late April with the windows down. Something about the perpetual recession of the horizon always makes me want to pick a random fork and just keep on going. I think it taps into some primal sense-memory link between the smell of spring earth in the still-chilly air and the rush of the wind against my face and arms and the feelings of freedom and potential I experienced when I first got my license as a teenager.

For the last two years I’ve been living in Berlin without a car, but in my ‘real’ life, I have a 6-speed Mini Cooper and more than enough twisty-twiney country roads to choose from…

Wow: I really miss driving!


Betsy February 12, 2008 at 9:46 am

That’s funny because my sister lived there for a while and she said the same thing, which surprised me.


cungena54 February 12, 2008 at 11:27 am

Hi Maria
Where in Berlin do you live? maybe i can get you to join our International Women´s Club (www.
Is it that bad taking public transport?


Kimberly February 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Now that’s just talking dirty… 🙂


maria February 12, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I live in Kreuzberg. Public transport here is great (and better for the Earth, I know!), but I often wish I could go out and take a ride.

I’ll have to check out the Women’s Club web site! I hadn’t heard of this group before.

Separately, if you’re interested, I’m giving a fiction reading in English at a cafe in Schoeneberg next Friday. The details are on my blog:


cungena54 February 12, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for your reply.I live LichterfeldeOst (S25) Now to the BIWC , that would be an ideal place for you , as we have a newsletter which always states what things go on in English. Also there are literature groups etc. Just read the website.
Unfortuneately on the 22nd I am getting vistors . but I have bookmarked your blog page and will follow up. Are you on My Space? then click me as a friend maybe from Susan´s page and i will give you my e-mail address i.e if you are interested.

In a nutshell it is a small world!.


ErikaRae February 12, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Safe – as in too safe. I have a tendency to make the passenger (read: my husband) nervous. I think I’ve seen Chuckles pass me on the road before. He wasn’t too pleased.


SusanHenderson February 12, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Hey, everyone. I got (nicely) caught up in my book today and will probably work into the night on it, so forgive me for not jumping into the thread – though I’ve been reading the really fascinating and surprising answers to this week’s question. I’m also so glad to see you guys making friends, that’s truly the best.

My home state of Virginia is voting today, so I’m watching with a lot of interest. In honor of both my hometown and the election, I’m going to link the very first interview I ever did – me back in high school, interviewing Jim Brady in the White House.

You have to scroll down pretty far (to the part about “famous people”) since it’s all just an aside – you know by now that I’m usually 80 or 90% asides. Anyway, have fun, and see you at midnight with my spectacular guest, Bridgett Davis.


maria February 12, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Small world indeed! I’m not on MySpace, though… can I reach you through the BIWC? Alternatively, my e-mail’s on my web site (just take the “blog” part off the address–it’s right on the homepage.


David_Niall_Wilson February 13, 2008 at 10:09 am

I’m a very instinctive, intuitive driver. I tend to handle things at the last moment, which makes those riding with me nervous…I have not been in an accident in a very long time, and have only been in one that was my own fault…many moons ago.

I love the highway late at night, preferably a highway with only two lanes and no streetlights, winding off into somewhere I don’t have to be at any particular time…

Macabre Ink


David_Niall_Wilson February 13, 2008 at 10:18 am

Susan…unrelated to this question…can you drop me an e-mail at david DOT niall DOT wilson I need to give you an updated url for your interview – I moved to a WordPress site hosted on my web space…and I thought maybe we could catch up and update your interview with a couple of additional questions?



cungena54 February 13, 2008 at 11:19 am

Hi Maria I`ve sent you my email adrress to your blog.Also if you like i´ll give you some infos on what is going on here , although I´m sure you “in” on these.
Hope it works . If not I´ll post it here.


cungena54 February 13, 2008 at 11:32 am

How true Susan making friends /connecting through a site like this is great! As I once said I´m not a prominent person , but love reading and have been to readings from various authors.It seems however the English speaking authors are the friendliest and most obliging!! Must be the mentallity.
I´m not familiar with most of your Litpark firends , so i feel quite privileged to be among such an illustrous circle , and maybe one day I may even write a story. I have enough to tell.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 13, 2008 at 12:41 pm

I just had a brainburst… Please make your next film about women drivers and this personality thing. I bet Robin would have a really good story for that one, too. You could come out to LA and I’d let you drive my car out Sunset to the coast, then up PCH for lunch in Malibu. Tempted?


SusanHenderson February 13, 2008 at 2:34 pm

I don’t tend to rate people as prominent or not-prominent. We each have taken a unique path through life, and that makes everyone’s contributions to the conversation very interesting to me. You’re adding just as much luster to this circle as the others!


SusanHenderson February 13, 2008 at 2:35 pm

I fixed that link. And here it is for easy access:

What was this – three years ago?


SusanHenderson February 13, 2008 at 2:36 pm

I have a good friend who wanted to be a taxi driver in NYC but couldn’t pass the drug test, so he went into teaching!


Kimberly February 13, 2008 at 3:15 pm

check the comments section of your blog… 🙂


RAC February 13, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Oh, crap. There goes my street cred. I don’t do drugs… so sue me. However, my libertarian leanings prevent me from judging or criticizing or ostracizing anyone in my circle of friends who choose to inhale, blah blah blah.


RAC February 13, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Laura made me laugh out loud in the library. [Moving to a different floor.]


Jaliya February 16, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I’m an excellent driver; a lifetime of hyper-awareness and attention to what’s around me have made my reflexes very quick…and I really enjoy driving. At one point in my life I wanted to be a pilot, like my older brother (he’s a captain with a major airline). He complimented me from the passenger seat of my car one day as I wove along a narrow city street that was lined on both sides with parked cars. He flinched once or twice, thinking perhaps that I’d nick off a side mirror or two…at the end of this tricky route, he turned to me and said, “You drive really well…” He looked amazed. My husband, who’s driven just about everything on wheels and has some racing experience, trusts me enough to fall asleep during longer drives. To be honest…part of my strategy is to assume that everyone else on the road is an idiot — the one place in the world where I can be very judgmental and unforgiving is when I’m behind the wheel of a car. I have seen countless drivers yakking on cellphones, reading, applying makeup, screaming at their kids while craning their heads around to the backseat. I get furious that most other drivers seem to have no idea of what they’re dealing with, and I think that licensing should be much more stringent than it is. For one thing…teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Many of them tear around, ignoring everything from red lights to road lines. Don’t get me started, either, on people who drink and drive…


SusanHenderson February 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm

So funny because I think what makes me a terrible driver is that I’m hyper aware of all the what-ifs. I’m foreseeing the driver in the next lane hitting a possible stone in the road and thus needing to swerve into my lane, and so I make room for that. I’m assuming the guy who crosses into the shoulder is drunk. And I imagine, if the guy tailgating me from behind happens to hit me, how much room do I need to keep from hitting the car full of kids that’s in front of me, and so on. Pretty soon, the worst driver on the road is the one who’s trying the hardest to be careful.

Oh, and nice to have you here, Jaliya!


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